Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" returns to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, bumping Sade's "Soldier of Love" down to No. 2 ... A whopping six albums debut in the top 10 of the tally, the most since last October ... Who starts high? Why, Blake Shelton, "American Idol" contestant Danny Gokey, the "Almost Alice" compilation soundtrack, Lifehouse, Raheem DeVaughn and Easton Corbin ... Just missing the top 10 is Jason Derulo, whose self-titled debut starts at No. 11.


FLASH POINTS

• After a three-week break at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" returns to No. 1 with 126,000 (up 6%), marking its third total week atop the list.

• It opened at No. 1 with 481,000 six weeks ago, and then held at No. 1 for a second week with 209,000. The set stepped aside for three weeks to the runner-up slot, playing second fiddle to Sade's "Soldier of Love." The latter set drops to No. 2 this week with 79,000 (down 37%).

• This is the first time an album has returned to No. 1 after a three week absence in over a year. The last time it happened was on the chart dated Dec. 27, 2008 when Taylor Swift's "Fearless" climbed from No. 2 to No. 1 in its fifth week on the chart. The set had debuted at No. 1 five weeks earlier with 592,000 and then let three albums take successive turns in the pole position before returning to the top. (Those three albums were Beyonce's "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," Kanye West's "808s and Heartbreak" and Britney Spears' "Circus.")

• "Fearless" would go on to rack a total of 11 non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200.

• Lady A's bounce back to No. 1 is just the beginning of the big news this week on the chart. Six new albums arrive in the top 10 -- the most the tally has seen since the list dated Oct. 17, 2009 when eight started in the region.

• Right behind Sade, we see the bow of Blake Shelton's new "Hillbilly Bone" at No. 3 with 71,000. It's the country singer's sixth studio set and it earns his highest rank ever on the chart. Additionally, it claims his best sales week since his second album "The Dreamer" started with 77,000 at No. 8 in 2003.

• As mentioned last week, Shelton's album is a shorter-than-usual six-song effort that carries an attractive list price. It's the first offering in Warner Music's new "six pak" concept, where some of the company's acts aim to release value-priced six-song albums in close intervals. Shelton's plan is to issue at least one or two more six-song sets before the end of the year. (This would buck the tradition of an act dropping a full-length album every year or two.)

• Last week, Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon.com offered "Hillbilly's" physical CD for a sale price of $4.99 while Best Buy sold it at $6.99. Both the iTunes and Amazon MP3 stores were selling it for a higher price than some of their physical competitors, as the etailers had it listed for $5.99.

• Up next in the parade of debuts is last year's third-place finisher from "American Idol," Danny Gokey, who sees his debut set "My Best Days" land at No. 4 with 65,000. Over on the Top Country Albums chart, it starts at No. 3 behind Lady A and Shelton.

• Gokey's set follows the post-season eight "Idol" album releases from winner Kris Allen ("Kris Allen," No. 11 with an 80,000 debut), runner-up Adam Lambert ("For Your Entertainment," No. 3; 198,000) and fourth-place finisher Allison Iraheta ("Just Like You," No. 35; 32,000).

• The "Almost Alice" album, a soundtrack/companion set to the new Johnny Depp film "Alice in Wonderland," debuts at No. 5 with 58,000. The set boasts a variety of acts contributing songs that were inspired by the film's subject matter. It also sports the movie's end-titles track "Alice" by Avril Lavigne.

• Lifehouse's "Smoke and Mirrors" is right behind "Alice," entering at No. 6 with 54,000. The set is the fifth studio release from the band and was originally scheduled for a December 2009 bow. It's the act's fourth top 10 set and it arrives with their best sales week since its self-titled third album entered with 63,000 at No. 10 in 2005.

• Two long-running albums manage to cling to their top 10 perches, as Lady Gaga's "The Fame" slips two rungs to No. 7 (49,000; up 2%) while the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." falls four slots to No. 8 (46,000; down 7%).

• Closing out the top 10 are ... two more debuts! Raheem DeVaughn starts at No. 9 with his "The Love and MasterPeace" (45,000). His previous album, "Love Behind the Melody," debuted and peaked at No. 5 with 45,000 in 2008. Lastly, country singer Easton Corbin arrives with his self-titled full-length debut set at No. 10 with 43,000. Just missing the top 10 is the eponymous first album from Jason Derulo, bowing at No. 11 with 42,000.

• Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending March 7) totaled 6.27 million units, up 5% compared to the sum last week (5.99 million) and down 11% compared to the comparable sales week of 2009 (7.06 million).

• A LOOK AHEAD:

• As for next week's Billboard 200, look for Ludacris to possibly score his fourth No. 1 album as industry analysts suggest his new "Battle of the Sexes" could sell anywhere between 120,000 and 150,000 by week's end on Sunday, March 14.

• Ludacris' last album, "Theater of the Mind," debuted and peaked at No. 5 when it started with 213,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan in late 2008. If "Battle" triumphs next week at No. 1, it will follow his earlier chart-toppers: "Release Therapy" (2006), "The Red Light District" (2004) and "Chicken N Beer" (2003).

• The rapper/actor is on a roll, as the album's lead single "How Low" already hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, Justin Bieber's current single "Baby" -- which features Luda -- reached No. 5.

• After Ludacris, the next-highest entries on next week's Billboard 200 chart look to be Gorillaz's "Plastic Beach" and Jimi Hendrix's new studio set "Valleys of Neptune." Each may start with maybe 100,000 each.



MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 6.72 million units
• Up 5% from last week's charts: 5.99 million units
• Down 11% from the comparable week in 2009: 7.06 million units
• This week: Only the No. 1 on the Billboard 200 sells more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: U2's "No Line On The Horizon" blasted in at No. 1 with 484,000 -- outselling the titles at Nos. 2 through 18 combined. The previous week's No. 1, Taylor Swift's "Fearless," fell to No. 2 with 52,000 (down 29%) while the second-highest debut arrived at No. 3 from Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone" (44,000).



A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the albums released this week, due on next week's charts: Ludacris' "Battle of the Sexes," Gorillaz's "Plastic Beach," Jimi Hendrix's "Valleys of Neptune," Gary Allan's "Get Off On the Pain," Serj Tankian's "Elect the Dead Symphony," Miguel Bose's "Cardio," Broken Bells' "Broken Bells," the "Disneymania 7" compilation and three variations of the Selena retrospective "La Leyenda."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2009 when: Kelly Clarkson netted her second No. 1 album as "All I Ever Wanted" premiered atop the chart with 255,000. The Dream opened at No. 2 with "Love Vs. Money" (151,000) while the previous week's No. 1 album -- U2's "No Line On the Horizon" -- fell to No. 3 with 132,000 (down 73%).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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